When I was a girl I practically dreamed of the day that I'd be able to travel around, and I thought I'd spend my vacations traveling the country and seeking out the best of the best.
And I did... for a while anyhow. I used to hop into the car on any given weekend for a getaway on a local winery route, or a shopping and dining spree in Chicago or Toronto. Sure, I was always on a budget, and I was definitely looking for discounts, but I thought I was living the life!
So what happened to my whimsical spontaneity and my love of traveling? Kids happened. Don't get me wrong, I still love to travel and definitely love to be spontaneous - but I just can't imagine lugging two little ones along a winery route! Our travels include trips to the local playground, or visits to the zoo. This is great for family time of course, but I miss the romance a trip for two can create, and it's definitely been a long while since my husband and I got out to have a glass of wine alone somewhere!
However, I've always loved a DIY challenge, so when I was asked to review a gourmet wine basket from Uncorked Ventures recently, I took on the task of turning my dining room into the sort of romantic setting I would have found in an out-in-the-country wine bistro. Although I did receive the wine basket free of charge in order to do my review, please understand that this in no way affects my opinion. (For more on my disclosure policy, please see the tab marked 'Let me disclose to you'.)
My efforts to make the night a good one included broiling delicious rib-eye steaks in the oven and lighting candles to set the mood. I knew that the wine basket included tasty treats that would go well with bread, so I stopped by a bakery and even picked up a couple of artisan loaves! A few hunks of cheese from a deli completed my end of the contribution to the evening, and we opened up our gourmet box to inspect our new treats!
The Gourmet Gift Basket we received came with a bottle of 90+ point quality boutique wine, signature chocolates from the well-known San Franciscan maker TCHO, jam and mustard from Hurley Farms, a tin of pistachios from Fiddyment Farm, and two small bottles containing EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and balsamic vinegar.
I think the thing that amazed us the most about this entire box was the EVOO and balsamic vinegar combination. We made a mix to dip our bread into, and I have never had anything quite like it! I have definitely mixed EVOO & balsamic vinegar to make a dip before - but never using ingredients that were this high-quality. The taste was completely unexpected and my husband and I were incredulous at how much we'd been missing out on simply due to the make of the oil and vinegar.
The second biggest surprise (for me at least) was the apricot jam included from Hurley Farms. I had read somewhere on the Uncorked Ventures website that the owner's son delights in this jam, but I took it with a grain of salt. I have never been big on jam or preserves myself (regardless of the make) and I'm not a big sweets-lover. Oh my goodness though... the flavor and texture of this jam was spectacular. It was tangy and sweet at the same time, and the crusty Tuscan bread paired with it magnificently. I ate the whole jar within a week.
For my husband, the second best part was the chocolate from TCHO. As I said before, I'm not big on sweets, but that shouldn't be held against the sweets themselves! Luckily I have my husband's taste buds to help me out most days, and he adores a good piece of dark chocolate. He was both surprised and amused by some of the flavors the chocolates came in (such as citrus) but overall very pleased with the rich bittersweet taste provided by the high level of cacao in each bar. I had a few bites myself, but I'm not as much of a chocolate lover as he is, so I went back to stuffing myself with bread and jam.
The wine that was included in our box was a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon from Zerba Cellars. I thought it had a nice woodsy flavor to it and my husband (who is very picky about the wines he drinks) was happy that the finish was smooth. While neither of us are what I would call 'wine connoisseurs', we certainly can tell a good wine when we taste one, and this was a great one.
We spent the rest of the evening together watching a movie while we drank wine snuggled up on the couch, and we were so full that we decided to try out the pistachios and mustard another time. Needless to say, they also lived up to the 'gourmet' standards - we devoured the pistachios together the next night while watching a re-run of Chuck, and we've been using the savory herb mustard from Hurley Farms on our sandwiches and in my super-secret egg, ham, chicken, or tuna salad recipes.
All in all, the gift basket was fantastic. I was able to have a romantic evening with my husband at home, which meant I spent my time with him enjoying myself instead of worrying how the kids were behaving for my mother-in-law. Plus, there is nothing quite so cozy as being able to relax after a fine meal and have a glass of wine (or two) on the couch with your spouse!
Want to know how you can get a gift basket like this for yourself (or a friend who is in need of a special treat)? You can connect with Uncorked Ventures and find out more about this family business started by two brothers-in-law on their website at www.uncorkedventures.com or their Facebook for special deals and information. Love Twitter? You can follow the owners Mark & Matt by clicking the links!
Disclosure: Some posts on this blog are sponsored, meaning that I received goods, services, or monetary payment for my writing. My opinions however, are not 'purchased' and are always 100% my own. Posts contain affiliate links that I earn a commission on. This disclosure is done in accordance with the FTC 10 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.